The Art-Historical Catalogue in the Digital Era

Authored by: Anne Collins Goodyear

The Routledge Companion to Digital Humanities and Art History

Print publication date:  May  2020
Online publication date:  April  2020

Print ISBN: 9781138585584
eBook ISBN: 9780429505188
Adobe ISBN:


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If Walter Benjamin’s powerful 1936 essay “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” sought to examine the numerous ramifications of reproductive, specifically photographic, technologies upon the political and cultural ramifications of works of art, his observations have proved to be uncannily prescient in describing the relationship of technologies emerging today to the development of new intellectual resources and conventions, particularly those featuring pictorial information. Reflecting upon the anticipation by Dada artists—through their montages of pictorial and literary materials—of efforts later associated with film, Benjamin observed how the technological structure of one set of communicative tools paved the way the way for others that provided even more refined, robust, and efficient delivery of that information. Indeed, in observing the potential for the reproduction to usurp, or perhaps distribute, the impact of the unique original, we might argue that Benjamin was among the first thinkers to develop a theory concerning the flow of metadata—information about a particular cultural form—which took into account how the production of cultural artifacts was, in turn, transformed by the desire to share them: “To an ever greater degree the work of art reproduced becomes the work of art designed for reproducibility,” noted Benjamin. 1

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